Resolution to Graduate Student Bursary Fund Dispute

We are pleased to announce that the University of Toronto has offered a financial settlement to resolve our Unfair Labour Practice Complaint (i.e. the allegation that they failed to bargain in good faith). The Union has accepted the settlement. In addition to substantial new money toward the Graduate Student Bursary Fund (GSBF) which allows it to achieve close to its intended goal, this settlement also finally includes clear, complete, accurate and thoroughly inspected data about the funding packages our members receive.

With the data and the new money from the settlement, the Union can confidently guarantee that eligible Unit 1 members will receive top-ups to their funding packages from 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 to $17,000 per year (exclusive of tuition and reimbursable awards). We will be working to make these payments as expeditiously as possible and will broadly communicate within the coming weeks the process for claiming the top-up payments.

During the strike and in conversations since, members consistently told us that they wanted the GSBF to be distributed directly to eligible members rather than by application. The data we get as part of this settlement is the only way we can see to reach all eligible members with the fund. We did not believe the data we achieved with this settlement would have been obtainable from a decision of the Labour Board.

This settlement brings to a conclusion a dispute between the Employer and the Union that has been active since the beginning of the Unit 1 strike in February, 2015. The outcome is not perfect, and it is not the one we would have chosen when we started the strike. We need and deserve more than $17,500 per year, and we certainly deserve at least the $17,500 per year we were led by U of T to believe we could expect as a result of the strike.

Likewise, there are fairer and more straightforward ways for U of T to honour its commitments to fund graduate students adequately. But it’s not news to Unit 1 members that U of T is seldom willing to do things the fair or straightforward way.

The Collective Agreement Implementation Committee (CAIC), which was elected by Unit 1 members to represent them in the mediation process, is unanimous in the belief that this settlement offers the best plausible conclusion to the dispute, given all the circumstances and the risks (to both Parties) of a hearing at the Labour Board. The Executive Committee of the Local, at the CAIC’s recommendation, also voted unanimously to accept the settlement of new data and new money offered by U of T.

As many of you know from reading the Union’s formal complaint, the evidence is clear that U of T knowingly bargained in bad faith, and we have no doubts that the Ontario Labour Relations Board would find against them. However, all of the information available, including our legal advice and the legal precedent, tells us that the financial damages U of T would be ordered to pay, if any, would not likely reach the amount offered in the current settlement.

We are also eager to provide to members the payments they fought for on strike and for which they’ve been waiting for over a year.

At every stage of this process, we have been impressed by the resolve and comportment of our members. Members of this Union have always had to band together to fight for every gain we’ve made, and this is no exception. And while we all wish for a better Employer that gives us even the minimum of respect we deserve, we are always stronger after we get through a fight together. And this is no exception.

On the final night of Unit 1 bargaining, Provost Cheryl Regehr sat across the table from our Bargaining Team and coldly stated that there was no way the University was prepared to raise graduate funding, then or in the foreseeable future. The strike changed that equation, as we saw last week in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and as we anticipate other Faculties will soon see.

The Employer then tried to get away with bargaining in bad faith. Whether deliberately or recklessly, they were misleading and deceptive in their efforts to end the strike on the cheap. While we have done our best to extricate ourselves from the awful situation they have created, and to achieve the best possible financial outcome for our members, we will all enter our next round of bargaining cognizant of what we’ve learned about this Employer. Their actions are not forgiven and will not be forgotten.

For now, we thank all our members for their patience and their shows of support and solidarity. We also need to thank our Unit 1 Bargaining Team, whose diligence at documenting everything last year, even during the tensest moments of the strike, is what allowed the problem to be identified, the Complaint to be filed and the settlement to be reached. And thanks to the Unit 1 Collective Agreement Implementation Committee who, with support from our Staff, have worked very hard to push U of T to settle this dispute.

We will send out a message in the next couple weeks with full details of the next steps for the disbursement of the 2014-2015 payment that was due last September. The 2015-2016 payment will be disbursed this coming fall, and details of the process for that payment will be broadly communicated as well.

In solidarity,

Alex Ivovic,
Vice Chair Unit 1

Unit 3 Members Survey

Dear Fellow Unit 3 Members,
CUPE 3902’s full time staff organizer (Cordelia) and I are working on finding ways to help make the Union more responsive to the needs of Unit 3 members, as well as to help build up the capacity of member engagement and community within both Unit 3 and the Local more broadly. Please take a few minutes – it should take no more than five! – to fill out a quick survey on social and profession development needs, and union communications. The survey can be accessed here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JM2DL2G. It will be available open until end of day on May 31.

Thank you!
Erin Black – Unit 3 Vice Chair

STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH ATTAWAPISKAT

CUPE Local 3902 stands in solidarity with the community of Attawapiskat, the occupation of the INAC (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada) Toronto office, and with the occupation of INAC offices across the country including, to date, Winnipeg and Vancouver.  Attawapiskat First Nation is in the midst of horrifying crisis, with 11 suicide attempts on the Saturday before last alone, and 101 suicide attempts since September.  This is a crisis that is by no means limited to Attawapiskat, a crisis that is a direct result of Canada’s historical and ongoing colonization of indigenous peoples.  The youth suicide crisis cannot be separated from the harm done to these communities by the legacy of residential schools, and the crisis of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Continue reading ‘STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH ATTAWAPISKAT’

Unfair Labour Practice Update

Our Unfair Labour Practice complaint was filed at the Labour Board in December, and the Employer has filed their reply at the Board. On Monday, February 22nd the Union met with the Employer through a mediator to discuss the possibility of a settlement. The session was productive, and we have scheduled three more sessions in April with the same mediator and the Employer to continue to work toward a settlement. Participation in the mediation is voluntary, and can be terminated by the Union or the Employer at any point, in which case our complaint to the Labour Board would continue unimpacted. The mediation matters are confidential, but we will update you as the process continues or a settlement is reached or mediation is terminated.

Info Collection – stay in touch!

The process to get the GSBF complaint resolved is long and involved. As such, it is imperative that we keep in touch with anyone who believes they are eligible for a GSBF payment. Please fill out this form if in the 2014-15 academic year you were a Unit 1 member and a graduate student in the funded cohort with funding at less than $17,500: http://goo.gl/forms/FQixPyrf7i

Try to give us as much contact info as you possibly can! This process could take a long time and we’d like to be sure that we can get in touch with you when it is resolved.